Televison: Civil Discourse Conquers the Vast Wasteland
This week, as it must to all men, television came to your blog host, William Prendergast. I appeared as guest on a local cable television program, Atheist Talk. (My agent had assured me it was going to be the Letterman show; I am currently seeking new representation.)
The topic: Michele Bachmann. The guests: your working boy, and his “Dump Michele Bachmann” colleague, writer/journalist Karl Bremer. The host: George Kane.
We were greeted at the door of the studio by the twelve-year-old receptionist, who looked very much ill at ease without his Ipod and skateboard. He consulted his video schedule and sneered "Wait out in the hall until they come to collect you, Daddy-o." Bremer and I seated ourselves on a hard wooden bench outside and watched the passage of demi-celebrities with their own cable access shows as they exited the studio for the evening—a strange parade indeed, akin to the arrival of an under-funded circus in town.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. George Kane, a gentlemanly infidel, came in from the cold and gave us the scoop on how to behave before the cameras—no spitting or scratching, no plugs for upcoming film releases or quick weight-loss programs, no atheist jokes. (I only had one, but I was sorry to lose it: “Did you hear about the atheist’s funeral? All dressed up and no place to go.” When I told it to Kane, he smiled politely but tightly, pretended he hadn’t heard anything, and then gave the crew the signal to proceed with the taping.)
A host of volunteer unbelievers manned the cameras and sound system and began the countdown. Everyone was extremely patient with us and very gracious. No one sneered at us or ridiculed our belief in a Supreme Being, or slipped us any of their godless tracts. We were there to talk about Congresswoman-elect Bachmann and her stealth theocrat political agenda, which is a matter of concern to locals of any religious persuasion.
I think it went well, but I won’t know until I see the tape. Bremer came off better than I did; he has a convincing manner, a baritone voice that inspires trust, and he hasn’t been hitting the donuts as hard as I have the past forty-five years.
I’d begged him to come along and I am happy to say that he indulged me in order to calm my fears. I had no idea what effect the hot lights, the studio and television cameras would have on my normal sang-froid. I had had awful premonitions of running out of intelligent things to say about the evangelical political movement half-way through the program and of trying to fill up the remaining air time with my Bela Lugosi impressions and my “man trapped inside an invisible cube” mime.
As it turned out, the half-hour sailed by and we were able to fill it handily with information about Bachmann’s sectarian and extremist political roots. Kane was a fine host who kept the conversation focused and on the move--I hope that it comes off as interesting for viewers as it was for us.
I will plug the program here when I learn broadcast dates and times. What I really wanted to do was host a cable-access show for kids, with puppets and public domain cartoons and me honking a big old floogle-horn and wearing a bow-tie that spins when I tell jokes or riddles—but these atheists wouldn’t buy that.